Railways (Industrial Dispute)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1979.

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Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham 12:00 am, 23rd January 1979

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the national rail strike and the threat of continued disruption of the nation's railway system". When I made a similar application last Thursday, you, Mr. Speaker, indicated that you would look again at this matter on Monday with a view to the possibility of our having a debate. In the event, a general debate was held on the industrial situation. It is a measure of the depth of chaos into which this nation has been plunged that a debate of that kind took place with only a passing reference to the critical situation on the railways, but the fact remains that the debate did take place with hardly any reference to the problems on the railways. I submit that it is important and urgent that the House should now discuss this vital topic.

In support of the urgency of the case, I pray in aid the fact that the nation today is facing the third daily stoppage of the whole railway network, causing massive inconvenience and hardship to hundreds of thousands of people as well as great financial loss to the nation and to British Rail. We are told that the loss is about £5 million a day rather than the £2 million which was widely quoted last week.

We face the prospect of further daily stoppages and other industrial action and the possibility of escalation of the dispute if British Rail takes action to minimise loses by suspending the guaranteed week.

All the reports about efforts to resolve this complex dispute are gloomy in the extreme. In addition, there is the threat that ASLEF drivers on the London Underground could add to the chaos and disruption by joining the daily stoppages.

Finally, I emphasise that the already hard-hit commuter is now told that one consequence of the dispute could be yet further rail fare increases in the coming year. I submit that this matter should receive the urgent attention of the House.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) gave me notice before 12 o'clock that he would ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the national rail strike and the threat of continued disruption of the nation's railway system". The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important matter, and I listened very carefully to his application. As the House knows, it has instructed me to take account of all the factors set out in the Order, but it has also instructed me to give no reasons for my decision.

I have given careful consideration to the representations made by the hon. Gentleman, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.